Genetics to the rescue of researchers against the COVID-19

La génétique à la rescousse des chercheurs contre la COVID-19

La génétique à la rescousse des chercheurs contre la COVID-19

Medical researchers use supercomputers to transform the laboratories of genetic detective agencies. They are handles for understanding how the disease has spread to Canada.

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12 July 2020 10: 23 a.m.

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Genetics to the rescue of researchers against the COVID-19

The canadian Press

OTTAWA — The public health experts of Canada have made strenuous efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19, trying to understand how people catch the virus and that they can pass on.

Despite the best efforts of the last four months, the source of more than one-third of the infections known COVID-19 to country escapes to the doctors.

Medical researchers use supercomputers to transform the laboratories of genetic detective agencies. They are handles for understanding how the disease has spread to Canada.

Each match close will draw a line from patient to patient in order to provide finally a picture of the spread of the virus.

“This is the big effort for the next four weeks”, ahead of Andrew McArthur, program director, biomedical discoveries and commercialization, McMaster University, Hamilton.

“What’s going to come out very soon, is a glimpse of what just happened : how the virus has been circulating in the province or how it has spread from one province to the other,” he adds.

According to Mr McArthur, this information will quickly identify the weak points of the public health measures and help to address them quickly the next wave in determining their origin. To be able to continue to divide the genetic codes of the samples means that when there are outbreaks, each case can be quickly compared to each other to see if they are all related or if they come from multiple sources.

This means, for example, as a center for long-term care should be able to know quickly if its 10 new cases are linked to one or more sources.

“It is a problem of infection control is very different,” said Mr. McArthur.

Second wave less bad?

This also means that maybe, just maybe, the second wave of COVID-19 will not be as bad or as difficult to control than the first, because the sources will be isolated very quickly.

“A second wave is likely,” says Dr. McArthur. But we have never spent this kind of money and efforts before, then it may be that we will be able to defeat the virus.”

The types of genetic technology used for this project did not exist when SARS struck Canada in 2003.

This genetic mapping is constantly in search of mutations. Until now, SARS-CoV-2, the official name of the virus that causes the COVID-19, did not mutate as quickly as many others. The flu, for example, changes so much in a year that the vaccine must be changed every summer to follow.

But there are enough subtle changes among the 28 000 individual markers that comprise a genome for SARS-CoV-2 for each case to be linked to the one that preceded it. Mr. McArthur said that it takes a lot of storage of data, many computational analyses of large capacity and a lot of money to perform these comparisons.

$ 40 million of federal

The federal government has invested $ 40 million in April for the genetic research on the COVID-19. Half of this sum should keep an eye on the virus as it spreads, to look for changes that it undergoes and to map its trajectory across the country.

The other half is to examine the genetic structures of hiv-infected patients, trying to understand why some people die and others have symptoms so mild that they do not even know they are sick.

Genome Canada is responsible for administering the project. Six regional agencies of genomic oversee locally the work and laboratories that perform tests and analyses. The funding is intended to create genetic maps from 150 000 patients. Until now, Canada has registered about 108 000 positive cases, and it is expected that almost every one of them is the subject of a genetic mapping.

The results will be forwarded to a bank of world data comparing all of the infections known COVID-19. They will also be analyzed for national and regional reports.

In New York, genetic sequencing has been used to understand the COVID-19 which hit the Big Apple does not come from China and Iran, as originally believed, but of Europe. In Canada, it is suspected that a large part of the virus entered the country by travelers returning to the United States at the beginning of march. But the work is only beginning to confirm this hypothesis.

All in all, Mr McArthur is anticipated that this project genetic will require two years of work.

Le Soleil

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